Friday, December 9, 2016

Too many methods

There is no secret sauce to growing the church, keeping kids in the faith, bringing revival or changing culture. Solomon the Philosopher-King sagely observes that under the sun, on a long enough time scale, madness and folly are indistinguishable. Practical tips, new leadership tricks, and useful productivity shortcuts make work bearable, but there is no 'ultimate solution'. So often we Christians are tempted to say longer prayer meetings, or keepings kids in church, or specially targeting them outside the church service, educating them in the home or sending them as evangelists to public schools, or preaching with notes or without notes, or preaching directly from the Koine Greek, or street preaching or relational evangelism or having nine kids or singing modern songs or singing your own songs or having nicer buildings or bigger buildings, or voting for conservative politicians, or welcoming refugees, or being a nicer person or whatever it is, the list is nearly endless; will fix all our problems. The secret to bringing revival in the church is .....  But it won't, of the making of many methods there is no end. Relax, Jesus has set you free, look to the 'Parable of the Talents' and serve God with what he has allocated you. If you trust Jesus, then you are a character in his big story. This doesn't mean we can't have and share opinions, more of that I say, but don't feel burdened by the meritocracy of our age.

[Statue of Job at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. 'God in the midst of everything.']

Monday, December 5, 2016

Premier Andrews forces us to think about Christ and Culture

So the aggressively progressive Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews is still trying to get his Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Bill 2016 through the Legislative House (Update: it was narrowly voted down) and into law. Basically the law forces religious organisations to prove that a religious confession of faith is an "inherent requirement" to be employed by a Christian organisation. (The law's logic is bizarre, you have to employ someone with the opposite values of your organisations in the name of open-minded tolerance!?) It's unclear if Andrews is simply securing his political left-flank to prevent more progressive parties gaining a foothold or if he is a genuine ideologue.

But the introduction of this law highlights an important aspect of how modern Australian evangelicalism views the relationship between Christ and culture. Many (some?) evangelical Australian leaders would say "the gospel does not change everything". This is based on the idea that the "ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4) is primary, and that the sermon is the central focus of the service. Therefore making this activity and role primary, and everything else secondary. Unintentionally this coincides with our culture's focus on specialisation and professionalisation, the pastor becomes the gospel specialist. So apart from the chaplain who else would need to be a Christian at a Christian school?

Now, apart from belonging to Jesus, what else really matters, in the end? The gospel is central to life and faith. Also specialisation can be useful. Now i've blogged before about the seven big ways the gospel changes culture (ethics, purpose, patterns, pictures, boundaries, occasional details and the meta-narrative). Note that I'm not arguing for an extreme Christian presuppositionalism, crudely: 'that only the things a Christian sees exist'. Aerodynamics, a creation trope, is useful for both Muslim and Christian pilots. But the big story you belong to ultimately and intimately changes everything. Otherwise ironically in an effort to elevate gospel preaching we narrow and diminish it, application is truncated, the scope of Biblical history becomes lopsided and we are unequipped to handle the madness of Daniel Andrews.

[Daniel Andrews in Tiananmen Square, China. - 2015 ABC News]